When Ikea and Sonos team up for a new smart speaker, it's a bygga deal. The Symfonisk Bookshelf, a Sonos speaker in Ikea clothing, makes a great first impression. The audio quality of this ljuvlig-looking speaker is snӧflinga to sneeze at, and neither is its price: just $99, which makes it the least expensive Sonos speaker around.
While the Symfonisk Bookshelf doesn't have the smarts of the Sonos One, you can control it with Alexa and Google Assistant. Plus, you can stream from all of the same audio sources as any other Sonos speaker, which is where half of its value lies. It's not as ambitious — or as polarizing — as the $179 Symfonisk Table Lamp, a speaker and lamp in one, but you can't beat the low price and fryken excellent quality of the Symfonisk Bookshelf.
The Symfonisk Bookshelf speaker adheres to the same design philosophy as the rest of Ikea's furniture: Modern and minimalist. The front of the rectangular speaker, which measures 12 x 6 x 4 inches, is covered in a dark-gray fabric. At one of the long ends are three small buttons: Volume Up, Volume Down and Play/Pause, the last of which can be double-pressed to skip ahead, or triple-pressed to go back. The rear of the speaker has an Ethernet port and another port for the power cord; you only need to use Ethernet if you have trouble setting things up via Wi-Fi.
The speaker weighs just under 5 pounds and can rest on its long side, stand up vertically or be mounted to a wall.
The speaker comes with an instruction booklet familiar to anyone who's assembled a Poang, Hemnes or any other flat-pack furniture from IKEA. I was half-surprised an Allen wrench wasn't included.
As with other Sonos speakers, setting up the Symfonisk was a relatively simple affair using the Sonos app (available for Android and iOS), but it took a few tries to get it to connect to my home Wi-Fi network.
Like other Sonos speakers, the Symfonic Bookshelf can be tuned to the acoustics of the room in which it's placed. Unfortunately, this still involves waving your smartphone around a room while the speaker emits a series of tones. Apple's HomePod and the Google Home Max do their room tuning automatically.
Powering the Symfonisk Bookshelf are two class-D digital amplifiers, with one tweeter and one midwoofer. It's designed for balanced audio, and that's what it delivered. Regardless of the genre of music I streamed, the Bookshelf produced strong mids and highs, with bass that was present but not overwhelming.
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The vocals on "The Stars of Track and Field" by Belle and Sebastian were forward and crisp, with nicely complementing lower tones. The bass line in the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere" had a clear thwump, but wasn't so powerful that it drowned out Mike D and crew. Bruce Springsteen's vocals felt a little lost in "Dancing in the Dark," but otherwise the song felt balanced overall.
Streaming Services Galore
Apart from their audio quality, Sonos speakers are renowned for their connectivity, and the Symfonisk is no different. The Bookshelf can stream audio from dozens of sources, such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, TuneIn and many more esoteric services. Plus, you can use it with AirPlay 2, Apple's technology for sharing content from its assorted devices.
Smart Home Control
Like the Symfonisk Table Lamp, the Bookshelf can be controlled using Google Assistant and Alexa. However, neither assistant is built in the way it is on the Sonos One. Instead, you need to talk to a separate smart speaker (such as an Echo Dot) and say something like "Play Bruce Springsteen on Sonos Bookshelf" (or whatever you happen to name your Ikea speaker).
This fall, Ikea will release a remote for the speaker and also build in support for it in its TRÅDFRI app.
Sonos has long delivered quality speakers, but none have been as affordable as the $99 Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf. While it doesn't have Alexa or Google Assistant built in (as the $199 Sonos One does), if you have an Echo Dot or Google Home Mini, you can command those voice assistants to play music through the Bookshelf. That's a trivial concern, though. What counts is that the Symfonisk delivers great sound and lets you stream from a symphony of sources, for less than $100. And that's no jӧkel.